By: De’Janay Booth
Photo By: Josh Newell
Cadets of the Leader Training Course (LTC) fourth regiment spent five days in the woods for the Squad Situational Training Exercise (STX).
Lt. Col. Al Roach, the officer in charge of STX from the University of Florida in Gainesville, said the training encourages leadership, adaptability and confidence, and they are able to apply the skills on a day-to-day basis. Teachers and coaches in the training used examples to relate to the cadets that “tie military training to their lives back on campus,” Roach said.
“You’ll deliver the planning if you’re going to go out to a movie with your friends,” Roach said. “If the car breaks down on your way there, you have to show some adaptability. And if none of your friends make a decision, well you have to demonstrate leadership and confidence.”
As the training got underway, In one of the lanes, the trees and foilage swayed back and forth like a dance as a group of cadets moved through the tall grass. Slowly, they took a few steps before stopping to scan the area. The sound of twigs broke through the silence.
A cadet raised his arm, signaling the ones behind him to halt and be on guard. They shifted their heads in different directions to see if they could spot enemy forces lurking in the woods. One enemy was eventually spotted and the cadets opened fire.
“Squad Leader, where do you want us to go?” one of the cadets asked after traveling further in the woods. The squad leader, who was Cadet Braxton Reid of Georgia Military College, took a second and looked around before answering the question.
“Alpha, go right. Bravo, go left,” Reid said.
“Your right?” another cadet asked.
“Yes, my right.”
The squad moved to their directed locations. They continued down the path, making it to the end after spotting another enemy and taking action. This lane was one of many the cadets participated in. At the completion of each lane, they sat with their tactical officer in an After Action Review (AAR) and discussed what their plan of execution was and identified areas of improvement.
Day Five of training approached and the cadets had to take what they had practiced in the days before and apply them in a platoon operation. In this new scenario, they were presented with a situation that included civilians in a village, forcing them to work together in an unknown environment.
That included helping civilians with medical issues and paying attention to suspicious activities of others. Roach said each day of training was a building block for the final exercise.
“It’s like a big story that they tie all of the pieces together,” Roach said. “And the end result is that military operations can go from gunfights all the way down to helping people with medical capabilities.”
Pfcs. Jonathan Mesa, Ricky Bobby, Stephen Devenney and Hunter Rogers from Fort Bliss, Texas, played the role of the enemies in the training. Mesa said the training benefits the cadets when they are faced with an unexpected situation.
“By the end of the day, I want them to come out with knowing real-life scenarios,” Mesa said. “So when they are down-range, they’ll know what to do, what to expect and how to handle the situation accordingly.”
Cadet William Espana, a sophomore at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, said, “It was great being put in a position and actually having simulated stress.”
“[It]’s been a new experience,” said Cadet Rusman Purewal, a junior at Santa Clara University in California. “I learned a lot about the Army. What I originally thought was totally different of what I experienced.”
Grabbing their bags, the cadets walked from the training site to the buses. Their muddy uniforms told a story of the hardship and determination.